Workshop. Tax evasion, tax avoidance and tax resistance in historical perspective
Not paying taxes. Tax evasion, tax avoidance and tax resistance in historical perspective
States have always relied on their subjects’ or citizens’ mandatory contributions to cover the costs of public expenditures. Besides warlike occupation and exploitation, such duties, fees or taxes were often regulated by law, similar forms of binding norms and rules, or social pressure.
At the same time, tacit refusal or open resistance to paying public charges can be observed in different periods of history, types of societies, political formations and places, sometimes even leading to revolutionary transformation. The aim of our cross-epochal and interdisciplinary workshop is not, however, a history of revolutions starting from tax revolts. Rather, we want to examine the different practices and forms of withholding and avoiding personal and financial duties, fees and taxes over time and among different social, professional and other groups. This includes, on the one hand, open and organized tax resistance on moral, economic and political grounds, challenging the existing legal or political order and claiming more or a different form of tax justice and redistribution, or a modification of how taxes are collected. In these cases, personal or financial duties were often seen as a form of humiliation and a marker of subordinated status. On the other hand, taxes and duties were often not resisted publically but rather avoided or evaded in secret. These terms refer to notions that distinguish between legal practices of lowering the intended burden and thus saving taxes or fees, and maneuvers that were classified as illegal or criminal. Such categorizations, though, depend on changing moral and legal perceptions and/or on class-related negotiating power.